Microsoft financial reporting tool changes rattle Dynamics SL customers, GP customers, and partners

Let me be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with Microsoft.  Here is a case in point.  In 2014, Microsoft announced a new report writer called Management Reporter, MR for short. It was an additional financial report writer to the well-established FRx, which Microsoft had used with success for many years. FRx was not perfect, but worked well for 90% of our customers. FRx had an advanced budgeting and forecasting add on called Forecaster that added most of the features needed for complex budgeting and planning. Customers, and partners like AccuNet, had options; we could do one or both, based on customer needs, and in some cases, it makes sense to do both. All is good.

MR is a Microsoft developed product, while FRx is licensed from another publisher. Microsoft teased a road map that included an advanced budgeting tool and more web-based options.  MR uses a DataMart that promised faster reporting, which was an issue with FRx on large databases with complex reporting trees.  MR allowed web access to published financial reports that FRx did not do. The potential of having one Microsoft solution was promising.  All is good.

MR originally allowed smaller customers to implement without using the DataMart, which simplified implementation, but after inconsistent performance issues, Microsoft required the use of the DataMart every time. MR had some severe bugs, which caused multiple releases of MR5 through MR10 in about 6 months’ time. Each new release required a reimplementation of MR, no small task. The DataMart, which promised blinding speed, turned out to be a dog, often slower than FRx. The DataMart corrupted often and required a rebuild that often took many hours and in some cases several days! The size of the DataMart was also stunning, often growing to 100 Gigs or more. In some cases filling up server partitions and crashing servers. Microsoft decided to drop Forecaster and several months later decided not to support FRx. Recently Microsoft decided not to enhance MR beyond its current features and not to add advanced budgeting. Microsoft added Power Pivot and Power BI free to Dynamics SL for anyone using Excel. This is a nice option, but to replace complex financial reports takes a good bit of work from the customer.  Power Pivot is not a replacement for Forecaster. Not so good.

So what should Dynamics customers do? I see three broad options.

1)    Many customers like financial reports produced in Excel and if you are reasonably skilled with Excel and you need the basic income statement, balance sheet, and budget report, you will probably be happy with Power Pivot and Power BI.

2)   If you want more reporting features setup for you and your reporting is more complex with trees, and consolidations, you should look at products like XL Statements. The cost is reasonable, in the $2000 range. XL Statements still uses Excel, so you have that comfort, plus a lot of tools, templates, training, and support for a rapid implementation.

3)   Finally, for the advanced customer, that needs distributed reporting, KPIs, dashboards, the workflow for budgets and complex trees, look at Calumo. This BI platform still uses Excel for the formatting, but uses the Cloud for blinding fast processing. The cost of this option is premium, but it delivers.

All of these financial reporting tools support many ERP systems, and you can take your financial reports with you to your next ERP system. In any case, I encourage you to work with a consulting firm like AccuNet, that can review your reporting requirements, setup demos for the options and help you with the transition. Send me an e-mail at [email protected] to discuss.

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